Could you first introduce yourself and your creative background to the reader?
My name is Rachel Perera. I am a creative based in Birmingham. I’m the owner of Valkyrie Models, Siren Workshops (Model Coaching), Sirens Magazine and RAW Studios. I’ve been modelling for nearly 5 years and now I’ve started photography too!
What does your creative career involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
It completely depends on the day! Before Covid, I’d have set days in the week for different business. This would help me see everything clearly as I get stressed easily. I usually begin by checking messages/emails. Then I set time aside for promotions/planning on social media etc. and then I’ll contact who I have to contact during the day.
What does being a CEO of a modelling agency/running Sirens Magazine and Workshops mean to you?
Being the CEO of these companies is the best feeling. It is very stressful, however, it’s always been my dream to make a difference and help others, which I think – and hope – that I am. My agency was the first small business I started as I wanted to create something new. I’ve always been slightly different to others so I wanted to create that within the agency. I wanted it to be a place with fresh faces that may not get seen or possibly have a chance on the bigger agencies because of their differences, such as height, tattoos and body shape. Everybody should be given a chance as everyone has a unique look. The industry is changing and I wanted to show that.
My workshops were created throughout the first month of the pandemic. I needed something that I could do from home and earn money as well as help others! I started off with just the online sessions and then added the physical workshops when we were allowed to open again! The magazine was then started in December 2020 as a little extra to Siren Workshops. Again, I wanted to give a chance for smaller creatives to be seen and heard. We now offer small interviews in our magazines too which is amazing!
What’s great about your job?
I love everything within my job. As mentioned previously, I love that I can help people. Whether this is helping pro models get more work or new models into the industry itself! It’s hard work but it’s 100% worth it.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
The hard part of running these is time management. I mentioned before that I have set days for each business, however, you still have to look at the others each day, otherwise, you may miss a message etc. I get tired very easily so staying on top of everything can be too much sometimes. Even the little things can become a chore. However, I’m learning to take breaks and take some time out for myself, otherwise, I’ll burn out eventually.
Do you think there’s any misconceptions with your job?
A big misconception for my job would mainly come from the modelling itself. People think that it’s a huge moneymaker and it’s easy to get into etc. Modelling can definitely be a lot of work for what you get paid most of the time. Even big jobs sometimes aren’t paid that great for what they are. The modelling itself is tiring. You can be on set from 6am-10pm with not a lot of breaks and travelling for hours with no sleep. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a fun job. The feeling when you see your face on a poster, billboard or anything completely outweighs the cons. But I think it definitely is a job you need to seriously have a think about before doing it, as I don’t think it’s how you picture it.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
The highlights of my career again would start with the modelling itself. I’ve had many front covers, international work and been in music videos. It’s such an amazing feeling! But now I can bring that to the agency and workshops and help others learn from what I’ve done. I’m still a baby in the industry, but it’s nice to know that people love your work and want to learn from you. That feeling is the best!
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
So getting into this career wasn’t intentional. I actually studied music at college and was a singer. I still help out at my fiancé’s business ‘ROX Music Academy’ now as that’s where our studio is located. I worked with a photographer in 2016 to actually get some music promo/social media content and it went really well! I then shot with him again for fun and then photographers in Birmingham started contacting me and I just fell into the modelling world. I was very lucky! I’d love to carry on with music too, so expect to see some bits on my Instagram soon!
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge would’ve probably been starting from nothing. I had no following in the industry and not many friends in Birmingham when I started. Even when I started the workshops, I only had so many people that would’ve been interested. So the hardest part would probably be creating business and promoting to the world as it’s always hard to get people's attention. It’s getting there now though and we have new customers every day! You just have to keep pushing through the bad days and know there are many people out there that are interested, you just have to find them!
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
I’ve definitely seen changes in the industry, mainly over the past two years. Brands are using tattooed models, disabled models and more! It’s amazing to see the diversity now. It still needs to change, even more, however, I’m glad it’s started and more people are being given the chance. I remember being in River Island not that long ago and their whole campaign was models with disabilities and it was beautiful. A 5ft model covered in tattoos walked the New York Fashion Week a few years ago also! The industry is changing, it just needs to change more!
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to a 16-year-old you. What do you say?
If I could talk to my 16-year-old self I’d say “Keep going, you’ll be fine”. 16 was a tough year for me. I lost my mum and had to move to a completely new city on my own and start a new life. This is when I studied music. I found it hard to socialise, make friends, perform, everything. If my 16-year-old self could see me now, she wouldn’t believe what she could see.
I’m a completely different person now because I’ve faced so many challenges and I’ve just carried on. The song I used to sing when my mum was around was “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. I even sang it on Disney Channel for a competition! I know it’s quite a generic song for the simple message of ‘The Climb’, however, it means so much more to me, so I have it tattooed on my arm with a small outline of me and my mum.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
Advice for young people doing my job would again be to keep going. You’re going to face so many challenges, rejections and not nice people, [but] if you stop and give up, you’ll never get anywhere. There are people out there that are up 1 hour earlier than you and go to bed 1 hour later. Within these 2 hours, they might’ve got the bookings you didn’t get because you couldn’t be bothered or you gave up. You’ve got this, keep going!
Rachel directing a Siren's workshop